At the time when phony myths and legends about mediocre theatrical heroes were being created and various medals, awards and titles were being lavishly given left and right, but mostly on the "right", Vruir never received even the most basic of titles. This truly legendary person huddled in a one-room "cell" (one can hardly call his 19 square meter room anything else) with his wife and two children, in a space fully crammed up with household items, many paintings on the walls, on window sills, behind and under beds... It took me a great deal of effort to coax a studio for the great artist; to do that, I had to humiliate myself in front of petty nobodies who had absolute powers and all the possible benefits and privileges.
During my very first visit to the small room where Vruir Galstian used to work, a small still life caught my attention. That painting still possesses its artistic values. It looks a little unusual. A piece of sackcloth sewn together from a few smaller pieces is stretched over an awkwardly made frame; a regular teapot is painted on it. It is all very simple and amazing, deep and wonderful. Perhaps some day this small still life with a teapot will be exhibited two dimensionally in order to demonstrate both the real artistic quality and the author's deepest dedication to art. This truthful and somewhat sentimental episode can become a key to understanding the complex artistic path of Vruir Galstian, who was periodically not recognized, not understood, then recognized and understood, whereas he continued to tackle more complex issues, and this continued all the way to the end of his life. It is important that there was a complete lack of going for effect or originality. It was nothing but the most difficult and painful struggle of self-discovery and unending penetration into the mysteries of painting, into a world that is unique, that never repeats itself, constantly enriches itself and widens the master's dominions.
Vruir did not come into art suddenly and overnight, even though it was difficult later on to imagine him in any other role. Like many children, he first painted for fun, then first signs of "professionalism" and "community work" appear (tattoos that he made for all his neighborhood playmates). I have had the opportunity to see some fantastic "auto-tattoos" on him. He was bored in school, he changed schools as often as he changed girlfriends. His mind was up in the clouds, taking him far, far away from his textbooks and school desks. What hasn't he tried: melioration technical school, agricultural mechanization technical school, mining and metallurgy technical school, special Air Force school... And then, as if by chance, he ended up in preparatory courses at the Phanos Terlemezian fine arts college. This was were he met an outstanding artist and teacher Vahram Gayfejian. This was already fate. Straight away, Vruir was accepted to the second year, which was the first recognition of his outstanding talent. He studied with enthusiasm, but his character didn't change: the entire path leading to his final choice of profession is sprinkled with quests, and not always linked to art.
Many years ago, when I first saw Vruir Galstian's works, I immediately and intuitively felt absolute individuality, a somehow inexplicable creative personality that is amazingly unlike other colleagues. The sources of his art were pure without analogs, whereas many artists, including our famous masters, used to take a long time to explore their path, copy endlessly, try to get away from influences and to find their own face.
It is in the works by painters like Vruir Galstian that usual everyday objects acquire special beauty and meaning, and uncover the substance of the painter's soul. On the outside, Vruir's art does not stand out for some rare interpretation of the subject or any claim to innovation, but it is valuable for its originality that doesn't happen very often and that wins over time at the end. Every brush stroke contains emotional experiences and an urge to express himself more fully. Under each of Vruir's paintings there are several completed paintings that are acceptable for us, the viewers, but not for him a man imperturbable and extremely demanding towards himself and his colleagues. Being constantly dissatisfied with the results, he would scrape off the thick layers of paint. But there was no stopping him. And perhaps the artist constantly demanding more from himself was right. This fact is not unimportant for characterizing Vruir. The integrity of his nature, extraordinary concentration and a great belief in art - this are some of the distinctive traits of his character.
Vruir was not an interesting talker and an even worse theoretician, but he was a unique practitioner of painting; his whole will, powerful energy, skills and talent were focused on painting. Vruir was genuine to the extreme, there was nothing false about him, he was sim pie with other people and never took on any airs, he looked unrespectable, baggy, sloppy with a lazy streak; at the same time, there was something unusual and weighty in his appearance. Even photographs can convey in significance of his personality. He was a true worker and master like Cezanne, van Gogh, Picasso and Braque, far from operetta dandies in tail coats pretending to be painters, spending most of their time in cafes talking about newest movements and concepts. Vruir was not one of the textbook heroes of the time where he lived, and unnoticeably become a hero for all times. In front of the easel he transformed into a knight conquering new castles and bastions. He never tried to be the leader and remained a solitary knight. The character of a sad hidalgo always accompanied him throughout his entire life. In some sense, he himself was a Don Quixote. It was easier for him to relate to the subjects of his paintings than to many of his contemporaries and colleagues who, in the best case, treated him with condescension rather than understanding. Very few people really understood and appreciated this unique man and painter in his lifetime...
I understood from the very beginning and I used to console Vruir by repeating often that he would not get the attention he deserves in his lifetime. Vruir never went for fame, he had no time for that. While creating wonderful paintings, he would always doubt himself. This is so unlike the behavior of some self-confident "geniuses" breathless with self-eulogizing. Every time when he showed new paintings, he would ask naively, with an embarrassed and kind smile, constant Armenian cigarette and a cup of coffee, doubting himself again and again (I have a feeling that I can hear his soft measured voice): "Do you think I can do it?" And thus to the end of his life. And I really want him to hear me: "Yes, you did it, you have reached great heights and became fulfilled as a person. My wonderful, kind and faithful friend."
Vruir Galstian's works are very monumental, they seemed to be constrained by the canvas size, they are begging for big murals and gigantic solutions.
While touring the exhibition at the Modern Art Museum of Armenia, famous Mexican painter Siqueiros talked about Vruir Galstian's works with great enthusiasm. He said in particular: "This painter could work very successfully in monumental art." Incidentally, for a long time Vruir had worked on sketches for a monumental stained glass window for "Rossija" Cinema, but unfortunately this project was not implemented. Vruir Galstian's works are monumental in themselves; having their own independent function, they do not aspire to be mechanically transferred on walls, which would naturally require an appropriate solution, taking into consideration the specifics. Many of his paintings are associated with stained glass window, but the latter cannot contain so many richest color nuances.
The painter rejects the drawing, composition and color in their traditional sense; many objects can only be sensed, while others are not even outlined. The paintings contain fantastic visions, yet this abstraction does not get transformed into signs or schematic geometry. Energetic artistic flesh surrounded by powerful contours (a principle already found in the early period) are fully in tune with autonomous harmonious components, with tense intensive reverberation. Such an interpretation should not be taken as an end in itself. Vruir Galstian's art requires long meditation, gradual adaptation for entering his complex world. It is characteristic for the painter to create a world that is static on the outside, yet dynamic, lively and compact on the inside; that is why his monumental works are full of dynamic artistic underlying theme, they are strained to the limit, may seem illogical, but power energy, harmony and logic are focused in that very counteraction.
The value of a work of art cannot be weighed on scales or measured with a ruler. Comparisons do not always allow you to reach an accurate artistic criterion. Time selects more stringently and accurately; it throws away any manifestation of mercantilism and conjuncture, leaving only what is pure, eternal and of high quality, which eventually makes up artistic value. The last thing the great masters of the past had on their mind was how to look more modern or national. They created their work naturally, organically, firmly propping themselves against their native land.
In all of Vruir Galstian's works (starting from the earliest to the latest ones) it is not difficult to notice a complete lack of analogies not only in the Armenian art, but also in all the facts of art known to us. There is a complete rejection of reminiscence, anachronism or any desire to come close to the discoveries of modernism. This phenomenon created by our nature is an exclusively individual phenomenon that has no predecessors and rules out any followers. Vruir Galstian's work is closed in itself and will remain such. Hence the natural misunderstanding of many processes that constantly progressed and transformed. Dissimilarity leads to bewilderment, lack of comparisons catches you off guard, causes discussions, rejection or, in rare cases, admiration. Apparently, the viewer has to have a certain amount of imagination or at least confidence in the creator and a desire to get closer to his complex world of quests. Our contemporary Vruir Galstian was an absolutely unique and mysterious individual, a complex painter, and the understanding of his art works requires not so much theoretical preparation as openness of gauges of feelings, readiness not to cover up with an impenetrable shield of non-acceptance, and understanding that there is no room for dogmatic borders in art. Here we have a rare type of painting, and the uncovering of its mysteries will largely be determined by time. Vruir Galstian's work evolved while he still held a brush in his hands. There is no need to guess or predict: forecasting is based on the facts of his creative work. It is not by chance that the great Sarian spoke of him as "a phenomenon worthy of special attention."
Vruir's canvases are painted by vigorous and massive brush-strokes, which seem to willfully lie down on the canvas in an impetuous pace, imparting sensation of emotion even to the most static compositions. They shape the plastic form of the depicted. And like the male bees, having accomplished their mission, perish in the moment of conception of a new life, the linear-plastic aspect of form organization in the uninterrupted spill over into one another of multifariously colored brush strokes dissolves entirely into the color structure weaved by them. The latter is the main bearer and exponent of the figurative-emotional contents of Vruir's canvases.
In Vruir's numerous compositions the light performs as if in its direct meaning: light as a derivative from the Sun, granting life. The Sun, the Light, and the Life become synonyms for Vruir. He devoutly worships this newly-brought-to-light Trinity, evidently identified in his artistic perception with the Eternity. A mediator between this metaphor and the viewer in Vruir's art is the unusually sonorous and intensive color of the artist's canvases that originates shafts of light.
On the whole the figurative meaning of the concept of Light in Vruir's art supposes, as it seems, the following interpretation: Light as a path to the Truth. Behind the frenzy of color rhythms, color forms, and color compositions one can feel the extraordinarily volitional efforts of a man carving the way to the Light (the Truth) in spite of everything. "From Darkness To Light:" the quintessence of the contents of Vruir's paintings is apparently concluded in these words of van Gogh, in which he reasoned the main evangelical truth. If right up to the beginning of the twentieth century all-European art was entirely based on the belief in the identity of appearance and inmost meaning of the real material subject, the pure local color in Vruir's works is entirely "metaphysical." Although the visibility of objects in itself does not mean a thing for the artist himself, the point is not in alienation of color from natural origin. In the space of Vruir's artistic imagination, even when he is painting a portrait, there is no objectively existing form, which could have served him a material for depiction, even if abstracted, when the visual form could be mangled and deformed for creating a new pictorial reality, as he did in 1960s. Abstract geometrical forms, such as segments of straight lines and curves, circle, triangle, rhombus, arrow, spots of this or that size and configurations, suffice for expressing the conceptual, symbolic meaning, which Vruir henceforward encloses in his works. Vruir builds the sought artistic image by combining in a definite logical order all sorts of varieties of these solitary motives. And the fact of such creative activity itself plays, perhaps, not in the least the last role in comprehension of the notional conception of the artist's creative work on the whole: contrast creation with destruction, and the Light with the Darkness.
To mind comes van Gogh's idea to create pictorial ensembles, innovative at its times, series of sunflowers, gardens, olive-trees, views of Provence, series, conceivable as a sole coloristic "decoration," as an integral picture, in which each of the pictorial links should have reinforced and supplement the other. Rather subconsciously than by virtue of knowledge in the van Goghian intention. Vruir as if proposes his own version of its realization, which on the highest, conceptual level closes up with the purposefulness of some trans-avant-garde trends, first of all "land art." Thus, expressing itself in different stylistic forms of the modern art culture. the phenomenon of "the world's supra-personal art model" reveals and confirms itself.
Vriur Galstian's art-space, addressed not to the individual, but to the masses, is a self-sufficing image of Light, possessing intense and powerful energy. And in this lies the unique contribution of the Armenian master to the development of the leading stylistic problem of twentieth-century art.
Every time, when I look at Vruir Galstian's canvases, I am seized with a feeling, as if I have found myself by the Egyptian Pyramids , before the power of which one senses his insignificance and experiences a feeling of the cosmic solitude. For a long time I put down these sensations to the pyramids gigantic sizes, but when, many years ago, on an occasion I asked our great maestro, Yervand Kochar, which art he considered to be the oldest in the world, Kochar answered without delay: "The sculpture". Said and, catching sight of my astonished look, in confirmation of his words, added: "Yes, yes. Since the man has hove a lying stone and put it in the vertical position, the first and the oldest art in the world was born". Said and added anew: "Then he has created the simplest and the greatest sculpture, after which all the pieces of art became it's derivatives". Only after this answer of the master I have guessed the riddle of Egyptian Pyramids, Vruir's creation and of that strange feeling, which I have experienced colliding with both phenomena. It became clear to me, that they resemble that prehistoric sculpture, which for it's great simplicity became the basis of the whole posterior art. Here is the mystery of Egyptian Pyramids and Vruir Galstian's painting by their simplicity both take us to the foundations of the art and architecture, outside of which there are only derivatives.
In his important treatise Boundaries of Ancient Fine Art, a great Chinese artist and philosopher of 5th-6th centuries Xie He cites six key principles of fine arts which, in Chinese master’s opinion, represent “the essence of fine arts theory that have remained unchanged in the lifetime of ten generations”. The first of these laws requires that the artist maintains “spiritual unity” of his art… The art of one of the most interesting characters of contemporary Armenian art, Vruir Galstian, is a true “spiritual unity”. This art, one of our greatest achievements, was mostly shaped in the period of gross deafness and muteness, and it’s grim and hopeless repercussions are yet to reach us. The last two-three decades of our life offered little hope and confidence. Against these odds, those years saw true and incorruptible art that persevered through sacrifice and deprivation. This art, created by a group of individuals, represent an entire generation and does honor to Armenian art in general. The greatest advantage of the artists of that generation is the moral purity of artistic principles, it’s faith and moral strength. The ethical value of the art that endured the environment of impenetrable griminess and mediocrity, is hard to underestimate. It antagonized the art that humbly followed official orders and tainted to the level of bogus academism and helpless picture taking and emerged as a new and higher level of realism. It was this spirit of uncompromising antagonism that became the true nature of his art. The destiny of these artists brings them close to those who worked in the gloomiest periods of previous decades. To their honor, these first individuals managed to stay away from vain temptations, kept their art pure from the false mottos and slogans of the day, the racket of the century and ideological and conceptual impositions and absurdities of the time. They did not betray their grand moral principles, did not became, in the words of a poet, “amplifiers of the transient”. Thanks to these individuals, today we can candidly face the new generation of artists who will tomorrow become the judges of our ethics. Due to these personalities, the bond of time would not break…Once, they took heavy blows of the then attendants and bureaucrats of art, inept mediocrities coached them on “professionalism”, triumphant crooks condemned them for “conceptual inadequacies”. But they persevered, because they were truly devoted to their art, truly believed in it`s power because were not fit for a different life…
Vruir Galstian was one of such artists.
His works dates back 1960s, although commitment to painting came much earlier, even earlier than he graduated from the Fine arts academy or entered Panos Terlemezian Fine arts college. His life was his art, and he lived through his art like he lived his life.
Vruir Galstian started like probably all artists, by absorbing everything that he was taught by art teachers and Great Masters, all spared no passion, effort and obstinate labor. In his first more or less noteworthy works, he was lured by familiar and new ways of creative perception and depiction of substantive world and environment, particularly appealing within conventional limits of still life and landscape genres. But studies and artistic quests took him beyond schooling, and already in mid-60s Vruir Galstian embarks upon a fascinating path of fulfillment and self-assertion.
The first important paintings that show the exciting path of his artistic transformations, are Don Quixote and Charents-Name°. Red Don Quixote, Grey Don Quixote, My Don Quixote series, Don Quixote triptych, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, Don Quixote and Rosinant, Don Quixote and the Moon reveal deep discontent of the artist about his time. He antagonizes descriptive compositions and laudatory paintings that fill the walls of officialdom with his faithful heroes, the poor and honest hidalgo and naïve, simple peasant - Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. Amidst fireworks of showy fetes and anniversaries, insightful and faithful replication of Don Quixote’s image means more than a simple reflection of ones deeper thoughts…
Subsequent Faces and Masques and Buffoonery series reflect the moral and aesthetic principles of the artist with utmost precision. He deliberately erases the line between the face and the masque – is it the masque that has merged with the face, or is it the face that transforms into a masque? Which of these is the most striking feature and symbol of the time? Are these clowns and jesters born from the artist’s imagination, are they a mere show, or rather, symbols of the pageant and vanity fair…
Portraits of Sayat Nova, Eghishe Charents, Martiros Sarian, Vahram Papazian, Paruir Sevak and others, the series of self-portraits of different periods demonstrate the unique vision and unconventional perspective of the artist in depicting a human image. Vruir Galstian undoubtedly created the best contemporary portrait of Eghishe Charents. This portrait endlessly expands the limits of the genre; it is more than a portrait. It is a novel, a saga, a tragedy of life and age, a story of a great man and a great artist. Vruir Galstian created several versions of Eghishe Charents portraits, subtly different in interpretation. His Charents series are alive with monumentalism and epic. These images render a powerful drive, and the poet’s “raging harp” obtains means of expression, language and attitude that he truly deserves. At the same time, these portraits reveal Charents of his “Book of Roads” – tragic, lonely, exceptional, invincible and …immortal. Each of Charents portraits has unique artistic features of it’s own while in all of them, the artist does not blindly abide by an accurate reflection of nature, but rather shows the symbolism-sign-unification of the spirit…
Already in the 70s, when the artist established and advocated his creative aesthetic principles, he gradually departed from substantive determinism of material world and drifted towards stripped color. Materialness of things seems to restrict the artist, suppress his mentality, close the scope of his imagination. The artist moves towards liberation from color limitations, and bonds imposed by description of the substantive world and factual vision imposed by this world, it’s obvious and photographic nature. He relies on pure, clear and simple color. The color gradually becomes the main structural element of his architectural composition. But even within these boundaries, the color of his canvases, no matter how much predetermined by his environment, emerges as an independent and accomplished element. The flat contour and silhouette of the color, it’s simple and precise spots are geometrically regular and affirmative, definite, harmonious and symmetrical, “brush strokes are strong, the color is simple and lucid”. The artist manages to express the colorful beauty of the surrounding world in truly “simple and lucid colors”.
He is faithful to his principles both in his landscapes , portraits and various compositions in oil, graphics, stained glass sketches and everything else…
The artist’s creative years fell on fairly bleak age. It is true that this age gave him almost nothing it terms of moral reward: no titles, no awards. It is also true that he maintained the best title – that of a true artist, and that his biggest award was his art that stood the test and trial of time.